Editor's note: The specific configuration reviewed here will be available from Gateway starting October 5, 2006. (10/3/06)
Gateway's basic black E-100M is a tidy grab-and-go package for workers on the move. This ultraportable's no-nonsense design clearly evokes the black IBM ThinkPads of yore, certainly a good bit of psychological free association from a marketing point of view. The latest revision bumps the CPU up to an Intel Core Duo from a Core Solo (we reviewed the retail version of the Core Solo model, the NX100X earlier this year), making the $1,803 E-100M's specs a more even match to those of ultraportables such as the Dell Latitude D420, although you'll be paying a premium for the Gateway's advantages--namely a slightly bigger hard drive and a newer chipset.
Measuring 11.5 inches wide, 9 inches deep, and a hair less than 1 inch high, the Gateway E-100M is slightly bigger than Dell's ultraportable, but it weighs a bit less at 3.3 pounds with the default three-cell battery (4.1 pounds when you add the AC adapter). The E-100M is about as light a travel companion a business user will find without dipping into the still largely uncharted UMPC waters, where features and usability go down and prices shoot up.
The back of the lid is a magnesium alloy. It has a glossy finish that shows a lot of fingerprints, but the system as a whole feels sturdy. The wrist rests have a rubberized finish, and an attractive black, brushed-metal border surrounds the keyboard. The layout is uncluttered, with no multimedia keys and just a single power button. The touch pad is somewhat small, however, at just 2.25-inches wide.
The E-100M features a 12.1-inch wide-screen display with a 1,280x800 native resolution, giving you enough space to open multiple windows side by side. Images were crisp in our tests, though text could be hard to read for some. (Setting the screen to something other than its native resolution is not recommended; instead, increase the font size in your document or Web page.) The wider screen also gives us plenty of room for full-size keys on the keyboard--although the keys are on the shallow side.
Packing plenty of connections into a small package, the E-100M supplies a VGA output, four-pin FireWire, and two USB 2.0 ports, plus headphone and mic jacks. There's a PC Card reader--but no support for ExpressCards--as well as a 6-in-1 media card slot that supports card formats such as Memory Stick and Secure Digital, but not bulkier ones such as CompactFlash. Networking connections include modem, Gigabit Ethernet, and 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi; Bluetooth is available as a $50 option. Gateway keeps the system slim by ditching the optical drive, but you can add an external DVD burner for $199 at checkout.
Gateway is in the process of upgrading the CPU on the E-100M, moving from Intel Core Solo processors to the 1.2GHz low-voltage Core Duo U2500; you'll be able to order this version through Gateway starting October 5. We would have liked to see the newer Core 2 Duo CPUs offered, especially in a system that's almost $2,000, but we admit the performance difference between Core Duo and the current Core 2 Duo laptop CPUs is not substantial. Inside, there's 1GB of RAM, an 80GB 5,400rpm hard drive, and integrated Intel 945G graphics--all of which will suffice for workers running typical office apps. Because the system is targeted at business users, it includes the Trusted Platform Module chip, or TPM, which is an embedded security chip for user authentication and data protection.
The system fell behind the similarly configured Dell Latitude D420 in the CNET Labs' Multitasking test, but it came out ahead in our Photoshop CS2 test. As expected, both of those Core Duo systems easily walked all over a Core Solo system such as the Fujitsu LifeBook Q2010. For basic productivity, the older Core Solo CPUs would have sufficed. The new dual-core option makes this system better for multimedia and consumer use, even though gamers and creative pros will want a more powerful system.
A small laptop means a small battery, and the E-100M's default is only a three-cell affair, which lasted for 2 hours, 33 minutes on our MobileMark battery-drain test. Larger six- and nine-cell batteries are available, but they will stick out from the back of the system. The Dell D420's large nine-cell battery, for example, ran for 7 hours, 8 minutes, and you could expect a similar boost from using a larger battery with the Gateway.
Gateway includes a three-year mail-in warranty; an upgrade to next-business-day onsite service is only $30. The Dell Latitude default warranty is a similar three-year mail-in deal, and its onsite upgrade costs $99. Lenovo, in comparison, offers only a one-year term with its standard ThinkPad warranty. Gateway offers 24/7 toll-free technical support during the warranty period, and the company's support Web site includes the expected driver downloads and FAQs, as well as the opportunity to e-mail or chat live with a technician.
|Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test|
|Apple iTunes encoding test|
|BAPCo MobileMark 2005 battery life|
Windows XP Home SP2; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM; 64MB Intel 82852/82855 GM/GME 64MB; 80GB Western Digital 5,400rpm
Dell Latitude D420
Windows XP Professional SP2; 1.2GHz Intel Core Duo Ultra Low Voltage U2500; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 224MB Intel Mobile 945GM Express; 60GB Toshiba 4,200rpm
Fujitsu LifeBook Q2010
Windows XP Professional SP2; 1.2GHz Intel Core Solo UI 400; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel 945GM; 80GB Toshiba 4,200rpm
Windows XP Professional SP2; 1.2GHz Intel Core Duo Ultra Low Voltage U2500; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 128MB Intel 945G; 80GB Hitachi 5,400rpm
HP Compaq Presario V5000T
Windows XP Home SP2; 1.46GHz Celeron M410; 512MB DDR2 SDRAM 666MHz; 128MB Mobile Intel Express 945GM; 40GB Seagate 5,400rpm